The Incredible Hulk has been around for ages, and over the years certain creators have made their mark on the character, as one can see in the new Epic Collection Going Gray. A few of those include John Byrne and Peter David, both of whom contribute to The Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Going Gray. This 512-page collection features John Byrne’s entire run as well as the very start of Peter David’s. It also does some wacky stuff splitting Bruce Banner from Hulk, but ultimately we must determine, is it good?
This book opens with Hulk jumping through the forest in his monstrous lizard-brain form as a mysterious narrator reflects on his state. Soon he’s killing a deer and surprised by how quickly it dies. It’s a back-to-basics start which leads to some fights with Doc Sampson and Juggernaut. It reads like Byrne was trying out the character and really just interested in drawing him fighting heavy hitters. The story eventually gets on with its main thrust, with some odd side quests, as it explores what happens when Bruce Banner is physically removed from the Green Goliath. It was a verbose era for comics, so expect some long speeches and many word balloons to sift through. It’s also quite repetitive, with multiple recaps of how we got here.
The story meanders quite a bit and ends abruptly, as if Byrne grew bored with the character. In epic, melodramatic fashion, the story ends with Bruce marrying Betty Ross after his father shoots Rick Jones in the stomach. In a hilariously over-the-top moment, Rick refuses to go to the hospital so he can see his friend Bruce get wed. It all reads like Byrne wanted to move some plot elements over a line and be done with it.
Al Milgrom writes a good chunk of this book, including all the issues between Byrne and David which also meander a bit. Hulk ends up fighting the Avengers, which offers some good classic action drawn by Milgrom with finishes by Dell Barras. Vision fans will want to check this out to see how he stops Hulk by using his phase powers to carry Bruce’s body to Hulk and then merge the two. Now that’s some crazy science. This leads to possibly the coolest issue in the entire collection, Incredible Hulk #324. In this issue, Bruce attempts to escape the Hulk’s body and his head emerges in the chest and back. It’s twisted stuff, especially for a comic from 1986.
From there, Milgrom plays around with the gray Hulk, has Rick Jones get Hulk-ified and fight said gray Hulk–which you can see on the cover of this collection–and things go from bad to worse with Thunderbolt Ross. It’s superhero stuff with plenty of fighting.
Closing out the book is a three-issue story by Peter David and Dwayne Turner. It opens with Bruce in the middle of the desert on a solitary road. He’s stuck physically and emotionally. Soon, he discovers an old man who wants to die and has hired a hitman with plasma powers to kill him. There’s some psychology at work here that works fairly well and even David admits, in the end, Bruce isn’t a psychiatrist. The story also gives Bruce ample reason to Hulk up and be a hero. These issues are a good example of David’s strong handle on the character playing with weird monsters–something that hangs on Sampson’s head and controls him–and brings the character back to his status quo.
Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Going Gray is an interesting time for Hulk as he’s used by John Byrne in a conventional superhero way that falls flat, but then plays into the horrors of the monster with Milgrom and David nicely. This was a turning point for the character and thus it makes this important reading for fans of the character. Still, the late ’80s was an earlier time for comics with overly wordy and expository pages.
Enjoyed this review? Read our reviews of previous Incredible Hulk Epic Collection reviews:
- Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: In the Hands of Hydra
- Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Fall of the Pantheon
- Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: The Leader Lives
- Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: The Hulk Must Die
- The Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Ghosts of the Future
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